Foodservice sector told to offer more higher-welfare meat

Demand for higher welfare meat is high, with sales of RSPCA Assured products growing 9% last year
Demand for higher welfare meat is high, with sales of RSPCA Assured products growing 9% last year

The UK foodservice sector is lagging behind retailers in providing customers the option of higher welfare meat and free-range eggs, according to RSPCA Assured.

While demand for higher welfare meat is the highest its been, the sector is not doing enough to meet this upward trend, the assurance scheme has warned.

Its new report examines current sourcing practices in the food industry, the barriers to sourcing higher welfare products and solutions to overcome them.

It features in-depth research and interviews with farmers, business leaders, campaigners and other experts.

Key concerns highlighted include the fact that free-range shell eggs are being widely used within foodservice, but not for ingredients.

RSPCA Assured's report warns that this is leading to large-scale imports of shell eggs, including from countries where battery cages are still permitted.

And some businesses are sourcing higher welfare products but failing to market them accordingly to their customers.

This means they are paying a higher price for products but not gaining any marketing benefit to justify this commercially.

Availability and fears over a guaranteed supply of higher welfare meat is also a major barrier to sourcing, RSPCA Assured says.

Cliona Duffy, the scheme's head of corporate partnerships, said the foodservice sector was 'seriously lagging' in offering customers higher welfare meat and dairy.

“What’s also particularly surprising is that the report found that of those foodservice businesses that do offer higher welfare products, many aren’t actually marketing them as such.

"This means that higher welfare supply chains are being seriously stifled as the benefits aren’t being passed on to the business or the consumer.

"But the good news is that with the right help and support, this can easily be addressed," she said.

In a bid to tackle these issues and improve the expansion of higher welfare meat, the report calls for businesses to market the sourcing of higher welfare products as a point of difference.

It calls for closer working partnerships with suppliers to develop long-term sourcing agreements that give them the confidence to switch more of their supply chain to higher welfare.

Businesses could also improve their welfare credentials by sourcing higher welfare eggs and pork where supply is more readily available, the report says, and to prove the business case on these lines before progressing to other products.

In response to the findings, RSPCA Assured has launched its first Supplier Directory to help businesses more easily identify suppliers of higher welfare produce.